The formula for weight loss is built on a very simple equation: If [Calories In = Calories Out] your weight will stay the same. Change either end of the equation, and you will lose or gain weight, respectively. If you eat (Calories In) more than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn (Calories Out) more than you take in, you will obviously lose weight. You can change either side of the equation, or you can change both sides in order to proceed with weight loss. Let's take a look at some steps you can take to weigh the equation to your favor.
1) If you eat less, you may feel restricted or deprived. You may be missing favorite high-calorie foods that you decided you had to give up in order to lose weight. You may have decided to reduce your portion sizes, which might leave you hungry. And if you were desperate, you might try skipping meals, or sticking to a fad diet, which eventually leaves you feeling hungry and deprived, and probably (because of necessary nutrients that are missing from your diet) tired and cranky to boot!
The best way to reduce your calorie intake is to aim for a slight reduction leading to a slow weight loss over a period of time. Aim for a reduction of 500 calories a day to lose one pound a week. Here are some examples of how you can reduce your intake by 500 calories each day: do without one slice of pecan pie, or one king sized snickers bar, or one large frozen coffee drink (that's 'small' in coffee shop talk; the large one is called 'grande' and that tops 700 calories!), or 5 of the following--one large fried egg, one slice of buttered toast, one 100 Calorie snack bag, one can of regular soda, two tablespoons of salad dressing. If you can do without one of your desserts, one of your snacks, a few extra rolls that you might nibble on while waiting for the entree to arrive, change to diet soda or diet salad dressing--just one of these small changes each day will lead to a pound a week weight loss... no small feat when you consider that will be a total of minus 52 pounds this time next year, and you don't even have to go on a diet!
2) If you're not into denying yourself on a daily basis or giving up some of these favorite treats, try cutting down 250 calories a day, or giving up a 500 calorie treat every other day for a 26-pound-a-year weight loss. Now, combine exercise (calories out) with a small decrease in your calories to work your way up to that pound weight loss in a week.
Exercising for 30 minutes at moderate intensity (you are too out of breath to sing, but can talk without too much difficulty) will burn nearly 250 calories in most people. Walking a mile should burn about 100 calories. How many miles can you walk in a day? You might be able to fit in a quick one before work, and another after dinner. You can do it outside, on a treadmill, or in a mall--it doesn't matter where you do it or how fast. For every mile you walk you'll burn an extra 100 calories. Even if you only walk a mile a day, you can burn off enough calories to lose nearly a pound at the end of each month. Again, if this sounds like it's not worth it to you, think of how good you'll feel when you've developed the habit of walking daily, and have lost 10-12 pounds this time next year.
3) The third option is to exercise heavily and not diet at all in order to lose weight. This works for about 1-2% of the population, according to some studies. The fact is, you'd have to do some heavy exercise (running, for instance) for an entire hour every day to lose one pound a week. Most people who have a lot of weight to lose aren't able to do heavy exercise, and certainly aren't in a condition to maintain it for an hour. Often, people try walking for 20 minutes three times a week and wonder why the scale doesn't reflect any change at the end of the week.
It takes a huge amount of energy burning to reflect weight loss on the scale over the short term. Over the long term, however, daily exercise (even moderate) is extremely effective at maintaining weight loss and at preventing weight gain. So, while it's an excellent idea to start and maintain an exercise program, this alone doesn't usually work for significant weight loss.
For most people, the second option works best for weight loss and maintenance. Instead of suffering deprivation by cutting out favorite foods, dramatically reducing portions, and even skipping meals; instead of trying to burn off thousands of calories each week by trying to run six miles each day; instead of fad diets; instead of all of these, learning to eat a little bit less and incorporate a little bit more exercise into our daily routines, is really all it takes to balance the equation, get the weight off, and keep it off!